Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mt. Hood via South Side Old Chute Variation

Location: Mt. Hood, Cascades, Oregon
Date: August 26, 2010
Elevation: 11,249 ft.

Mt. Hood is an isolated stratovolcano about 50 miles east of Portland and is state high point of Oregon. The mountain is very popular due to it's proximity to Portland and the general ease of the standard route. Luke and I are novice climbers, looking to gain more experience on bigger mountains. Mt. Hood seemed like a great place to test our fitness and practice our skills using crampons and ice axes.

After eating a delicious salmon dinner at a friend's house in Portland, we camped in the forest beneath the Timberline Lodge. We started our climb at 6:30 am. The climb can be split into 2 parts: 1) the approach and 2) the climb.

The approach:
The approach follows a well-marked trail over glacial morains, volcanic scree and patches of lingering snow. We ended up hiking up part of the ski resort in route towards Crater Rock, a prominent and isolated block of rock in the cirque of Mt. Hood. The Coleman glacier originates in the cirque and makes its' way down the southeastern slopes of Mt. Hood.

The climb via Old Chute:
We skirted the edge of the Coleman glacier and walked around Crater Rock. At this point, the pearly gates route continues straight up the face through narrow bands of rocks. The South Side Old Chute variation route is a safer variation in late season and traverses to the northwest and climbs the snow chute to the summit ridge.
We climbed the old chute with a French dirtbag climber. Temperatures dropped and winds escalated, but we moved forward up the steep cute. As we climbed, the process of kicking steps and plunging our ice axe became second nature. The French dude struck the fear of God in us, when he realized neither of us had gloves on. "You don't have gloves, you're going to die up here!" he shouted over the noisy winds. We continued onward, despite his dramatic exploit. Near the top, a giant rock was dislodged in the heat of the sun and tumbled down the chute. Somehow it miraculously missed me and spared my life. We reached the summit ridge and eventually the summit. It was a great feeling to climb a big mountain and use our technical skills. However, I realized that we had a lot to learn.

We downclimbed the chute and glissaded much of the way back to the trailhead. We reached the car 6 hours later. A quick, yet challenging climb.
Looking to the northwest from the flanks of Mt. Hood
Luke climbing the old chute
Me on the summit of Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood enveloped in afternoon clouds following our climb